IslamQA

Answers to questions received on my islamic-art-and-quotes tumblr blog.

How to repent from zina (sex outside of marriage)

How does one repent for zina? What if the man is someone who I’m planning to marry anyway since we are close to being engaged? Will the punishment be as severe, especially since we both feel guilt?

If you both truly repent (meaning that you ask for God’s forgiveness and intend to not repeat the sin), then it is the consensus view that the two of you can marry without issue according to the Egyptian scholar Khalid bin al-Mun`im al-Rifa`i (fatwa #43035 on islamway.net)

Before marrying (before nikah) you must wait one menstrual cycle to ensure that you are not pregnant. If you are, according to the Hanafi and Shafii schools, you two can still marry, while according to the Maliki and Hanbali schools you cannot marry until you give birth. The Hanafi and Shafii opinions are preferable since this is better for the two of you, the child and for the rest of society (to marry now rather than later if you have became pregnant). If you have your period like normal, then you can marry according to all the schools.

There is no punishment, that is only something relevant if the issue reaches an Islamic court (if people saw you during the act then went on to report on you in a country that follows Islamic law). Since what you mention appears to have been done in private, then it is sufficient for both of you to repent, and that is the end of it. This is the opinion of the Saudi fatwa council, mentioned in fatwa #47834 on Islamicqa.info.

In short, both of you should repent, then you can marry like normal (taking into account the complications mentioned above) and go on with your lives. Both of you should do extra fasts and worship to prove to yourselves and to God that your repentance is true.

Can you pray after eating pork by mistake?

I'm a new revert and today my mother made me a meal and it had some Chorizo in it. It was one slice and I was so engrossed in conversation that I ate it without realising. It wasn't until 5 minutes later that the penny dropped. What happens now? Is my Salah invalid? Do I repent? I'm confused.

There is no repentance necessary since it was a mistake (according to the Saudi scholar Ibn Baaz, http://www.binbaz.org.sa/noor/3155)

According to the Shafii jurist Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, if one eats something unlawful by mistake, one should try to throw it up if this is possible for them, otherwise they do not have to do anything other than rinsing their mouth. (Islamweb, fatwa 94019)

As for whether a person can pray, the only relevant opinion I can find is of the 19th century Maliki jurist Muhammad al-Desouki who says that as long as the pork is in the person’s stomach and they are able to throw it up, their prayer will not be accepted. This means that if one eats pork by mistake, they should try to throw it up unless there is a health reason that prevents them before they pray. But if one is not able to throw it up, or the food has passed beyond the stomach, then one can pray like normal. (Islamweb, fatwa 283165).

Why is sexual harassment of women common in Muslim countries? IQ and development, not religion

What I have noticed is that in Muslim countries in which there are more modest woman I get more catcalls, harassment, men following me, staring at my body parts etc. I'm not saying I'm for zina, but it feels unfair that they take out their sexual frustration on us. Maybe you're not able to relate to this, but every day I feel dirty. Even covered. Imagine people saying filthy stuff about your private parts, touching your etc. In countries where sex is more normal I haven't encountered this

Sorry to read that, and I hope it gets better for you. I am actually very familiar with this problem, having spent my teenage years in a large Middle Eastern city (Sulaimaniyyah, Iraq).

This appears to be a matter of intelligence and culture and not religion or sexual frustration. In the United States, catcalls and harassment are common in ghettos and trailer parks, where the lower class lives, even though they have as much sex as anyone else and probably more than the middle class.

Lower class people often think catcalls and harassment are fine, this has been my experience with the lower class whether in Iraq or in the United States. By “lower class” I do not mean poor, I mean those who are unintelligent, rude and uneducated and proud of the way they are. They are generally poor and live ghettos and slums, but their being lower class is not due to their poverty, it is due to low IQ and a lack of devotion to any belief system.

In a country like the US the lower class is very well separated from the middle class. The middle class live in certain neighborhoods, the lower class live miles away in a different part of town. In this way the two classes rarely run into each other. The middle class can go shopping, get their errands done, go to work, do everything they want and go home without having to run into the lower class, in this way they can avoid the bad manners of the lower class.

In the Middle East, the classes are not very well separated in general. There are market districts where everyone goes, so that the classes constantly run into each other, and this is why it is hard for someone like you to avoid the type of man you are referring to. As these countries develop, the separation of the middle class and the lower class should increase, and with it the ability to avoid lower class men.

If you want to know whether the problem is Islam or something else, compare the country you are in with a non-Muslim country that has similar average intelligence (IQ) and similar levels of development. Egypt has an average IQ of about 83, similar to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. I doubt women will fair much better in these two countries compared to Egypt when it comes to harassment.

The people in Egypt (and in the USA) who harass and catcall are not doctors and engineers, they are uneducated. And if you look at the middle class of the USA or Egypt, they are both equally good-mannered in general. I went to one of the top schools of my country in Iraq for high school, where boys and girls were mixed. Since everyone was middle class or upper class, everyone was perfectly good-mannered, not because we had Western-style sexual freedom (we did not), but because we all came from an intelligent and good-mannered section of society.

Instead of Islam being a cause for sexual harassment, it might be acting as a great limiter on it. If these societies abandoned Islam, the problem might get much worse. In the non-Muslim African country of Botswana (70% Christian), in 2010, 92 out of 100,000 women had been raped. In the Muslim African country of Senegal, that rate was 5.6 out of 100,000 women in 2010, 16 times lower. These two countries are not exactly comparable, due to different IQs and levels of development, but this should give people, especially Christian Westerners, pause when they try to blame Islam for the Middle East’s problems. A woman in non-Muslim Botswana is 16 times more likely to get raped than in Muslim Senegal, so it logically follows that Islam might possibly be having a beneficial effect in reducing rape.

I have never met a devout Muslim male who thinks it is acceptable to harass women. One could in fact say that the problem of these Muslim countries is that they have large non-Muslim underclasses, people who are Muslim by name but do not follow it in any manner in their lives (except when it comes to arranging weddings and funerals). A devout Muslim, no matter how sexually frustrated, would never catcall a woman, because they have sufficient self-respect and empathy to know that it is against good manners and civility to do that.

If a practicing Muslim is 100 times less likely to harass women compared to a non-practicing Muslim who knows nearly nothing about Islam and does not follow it, it is only logical to conclude that practicing Islam helps reduce sexual harassment, and that abandoning Islam will almost certainly make the problem much worse. It is the underclass that has abandoned Islam in all but name in the Middle East that is largely responsible for the harassment problem.

What you could possibly do is try to avoid such people, such as by shopping at malls instead of at shopping districts. If you can get a car and stick to the middle class areas of town, then you may run into them less often.

A certain level of intelligence is necessary for a man to have sufficient empathy for women to realize that harassing them is a really nasty thing to do. For this reason in well-developed high IQ countries like Japan (non-Muslim) and Malaysia (Muslim), women are far safer from harassment compared to undeveloped low IQ countries, whether non-Muslim or Muslim, where the men, due to their lack of intellectual capacity and empathy, are more likely to act according to their animal instincts without caring about their social responsibility or the psychological trauma they inflict on women.

Below is a table that lists countries from the highest IQ (Hong Kong) to lowest. You will notice that the highest IQ countries (those on the left) are generally the countries where women enjoy the most respect.

This table does not show the IQ of everyone in each country. It shows the average IQ, meaning the average person you meet will have this IQ, but there will be many people with higher and lower IQs. Countries with higher average IQs will have larger middle class populations, for example in the Netherlands, 50% or more of the population will have “middle class” values and manners. In India, where the average IQ is 81, the percentage of the population that will have middle class values and manners might be 15% of the population. This means that in India it is far more likely to run into men who think harassing women is OK than you would be if you were in the Netherlands.

Malaysia, with its average IQ of 92, is somewhere in the middle. Women will not be as free from harassment as they would be in the Netherlands, but they would fair much better than they would if they were in Egypt or India.

IQ might be the most significant factor, but it is not the only factor that affects these things. Testosterone levels may also play an important role, and perhaps more important than all of these is cultural and religious values. A truly devout Muslim (or Christian) man is not going to harass women even if they have a low IQ and a strong desire to do so, because their religious values will help them override their animal desires.

Feeling more spiritual with friends, less spiritual when alone

I could be a very different person with my friends( a good one that i always remind them of islam) but when I am not with them,i am not that way,how do I prevent it

That’s natural. Abu Bakr and another companion (may God be pleased with them) complained to the Prophet ﷺ that they felt very spiritual in his presence, but when they were away from him, they started to feel unspiritual and concerned with the worldly life rather than the afterlife. The Prophet ﷺ said this is the natural state of humans.

What you can do is read beneficial books in your alone time, listen to beneficial lectures, read the Quran and worship. You can also spend your time doing things you enjoy, such as a hobby, since Islam does not require you to spend all of your time in worship.

Once you can avoid sins small and great and are able to perform all of the recommended voluntary prayers, then you have reached the proper state of faith and spirituality, and from there on you can spend some of your time seeking knowledge and the rest of it doing things you enjoy.

Why can’t I pray tahajjud anymore?

I am a high school student, my teacher told me that she wasn't a good student in her old times,but because she prayed tahajud,her results were magnificent.4 years back, at 3 30 am sharp I would wake up,almost every single day of the year,but now,i would just wake up on a usual daily basis,(6 am) ,what have I gone wrong? I see people that don't even pray have success in their life,but I don't want to be that way,what advice could you give,for me to wake up and pray tahajud?

The most important advice I can give you is to sincerely ask God for His help in performing tahajjud.

If over the years your closeness to God has decreased, then you must work on this. Many of the great early Muslims have said that sins cause God to forbid us from doing extra acts of worship, since these acts of worship are an honor that He grants.

Beyond that, your sleep schedule matters. If you try to get up at the wrong time in your sleep cycle, it can be very difficult to get up. Each person’s sleep cycle is different. If getting up four hours after you fall asleep is very difficult, you can try getting up four and a half hours or five hours after you fall asleep, or three and a half hours.

If you are not getting enough sleep, then it can be very difficult to interrupt your sleep to get up to pray. Try to get eight hours of sleep, for example by getting up four hours after sleeping, praying for 30 minutes or however long, then sleeping another four hours. Another way is to nap 7-8 hours after waking up in the morning (in the midday) so that the amount of total sleep you get in 24 hours is close to 8 hours (perhaps 7.5 hours at night and 30 minutes in the afternoon).

And if none of this works, you can pray tahajjud before going to bed, which is what I do, since interrupting my sleep makes it extremely difficult for me to work the next day (I do programming work, which is mentally demanding).

 

“How to avoid sexual desires?”

How to avoid sexual desires? (i'm a girl)

We all have sexual desires and there is no way to completely stop them. There is nothing wrong with sexual desire as long as it does not cause you to sin. If your sexual desire is difficult to manage, you can weaken it with fasting or dieting. You can also google “how to reduce libido” to find more suggestions.

From an Islamic perspective, the closer you are to God, the easier it is to avoid sins and obey Him. For advice on making it easier to avoid sins, please see my answers Islamic Strategies for Escaping a Sinful Life and God has not abandoned you.

“He made me fall in love with his words, I crossed my line for him…”

He made me fall in love with his words, I crossed my line for him. I was a good girl, i prayed 5 times a day and i sinned. When I couldn't do more he left. I feel so heavy, my heart aches so much and i see no forgiveness for me. I left my Lord for someone i loved and now i feel nothing but grief.

Your sin is not greater than God, and the greatest sin of all would be to lose hope in His mercy and forgiveness and to delay repentance thinking that He is incapable of forgiving you. Go back to God, knowing that there is no safety except by His side, and even if you sin a thousand times, know that He is always ready to forgive, if you sincerely seek His forgiveness and work to improve yourself.

“I am tired of fighting and tired of trying…”

how could life fight me so hard while i didn’t do anything to deserve this hurt ,, I am tired of fighting and tired of trying, i don’t need this life I don’t want it, i can’t hold on, life is not for me i think i came here wrong i don’t belong here i don’t know where i even belong but it’s not here,, you should give it to someone else a dying baby whose parents are crying for his life or maybe a dying old father who has children crying for another day with him,, u should give it to them not me

Life’s difficulties are training for what comes afterwards, in a year or two. No difficulty lasts forever. Instead of succumbing to your difficulty and listening to Satan’s whispers when he tells you your life is purposeless and meaningless, patiently wait until God changes things for you.

If you lose hope in God in times of extreme difficulty, it means you will also lose your dedication to Him in times of ease. There is no such thing as a true friend of God who is close to Him and worships Him when things are going easy and who then turns his back on Him when hardship befalls them.

God teaches us to think the best of Him at all times. Satan  tells us to think the worst of Him, to lose hope in His mercy and question His wisdom. Which voice do you choose to listen to?

When you can, follow the steps I describe in my answer God has not abandoned you.

If you cannot find the motivation to do anything to get closer to God, trust in His saying “with hardship comes ease” and do your best to survive until things change.

“Is it bismillaah ar rahman ar raheem or bismilaa hir rahman nir raheem?”

Can you please tell me what is the correct way to recite surah fatihah? Is it bismillaah ar rahman ar raheem or bismilaa hir rahman nir raheem?

The Arabic letters say “bism Allah al-rahman al-raheem”, but when you read in Arabic, you say bismillahir rahmanir raheem. The way you pronounce certain words changes based on the context, so the reading is usually slightly different from what it appears to someone who doesn’t know Arabic very well.

To learn the correct way to recite Surat al-Fatihah, just listen to its recitation many times until you memorize it. Here is my favorite recitation of the surah.

“This world has always been so cruel to me…”

This world has always been so cruel to me. I have given up on life. Now, I'm planning to leave my home and live my rest of the life in orphanage/Housing home. So that my parents/siblings won't get upset by seeing me in such state all the time. Is this step right islamically?

Sorry to read that. I cannot give you any specific advice without knowing more about your age and situation, but what you are suggesting (of leaving home) sounds like almost certainly the wrong thing to do. If you do not like your present situation, think of the possible solutions then consult with your family and relatives and maybe a solution will be found. Since your decision affects your family, this is not something you can decide all by yourself.

Masturbation is not clearly forbidden or allowed in Islam

The generally accepted principle of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is that when it comes to enjoying sexual pleasure, everything is forbidden unless it is explicitly allowed. The Quran’s general teaching on sexuality is that Muslims should “guard their privates” except when taking pleasure in the context of a religiously sanctioned intimate relationship.

A strict interpretation of this verse is that all sexual pleasure is forbidden unless it is had with a spouse. A non-strict interpretation is that all sexual intercourse is forbidden unless it is had with a spouse, which means that masturbation is not included in the prohibition.

The Quran never mentions masturbation, so we cannot use it to reach a final judgment. As for hadith, there isn’t a single authentic narration that mentions masturbation1, therefore hadith cannot help us either in reaching a definitive judgment.

ʿAmr bin Dīnār, one of the Tabiʿīn (belonging to the generations that came after the Companions) and a hadith and fiqh scholar says, “I see no issue with masturbation.”2 Jābir bin Zayd, known by the nickname Abu l-Shaʿthā, student of the Companion Ibn ʿAbbās also says he sees no problem with it.3 Ibn ʿAbbās says that marriage is better than masturbation, and masturbation is better than fornication.4. Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, founder of the Ḥanbalī school of fiqh, says there is no issue with it.5

The most famous scholar to permit masturbation was al-Shawkānī (d. 1839 CE), a widely respected reformer and revivalist. While he ruled that masturbation is permitted in Islam without conditions (other scholars have said that there are conditions needed to make it permissible, but al-Shawkānī says no conditions are needed), he says:

There is no doubt that engaging in this act is a flaw (in one's character), a show of a lack of self-respect, and a show of abasement in manners and a lack of willpower.

He criticizes the act, but says there isn’t sufficient evidence to forbid it.

In the modern world, the Moroccan scholar Abdel-Bari Zamzami (d. 2016 CE) allowed masturbation for men and women, saying that since it helps one avoid illicit sexual acts, and since there is no clear evidence that it is forbidden, permitting it is more beneficial than forbidding it.

The Mālikī and Shāfiʿī schools say that masturbation is forbidden.

Making sense of the situation

What scholars have often done is try to take the vagueness out of the Islamic texts by enforcing their own interpretations, either saying masturbation is a sin, or saying that there is nothing wrong with it. Both of these approaches ignore an important teaching of the Prophet ﷺ in dealing with vagueness in religious matters, expressed in this hadith narration from Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim:

Allah's Messenger addressed us and said: O people, Allah has made Hajj obligatory for you; so perform Hajj. Thereupon a person said: Messenger of Allah, (is it to be performed) every year? He (the Holy Prophet) kept quiet, and he repeated (these words) thrice, whereupon Allah's Messenger said: If I were to say" Yes," it would become obligatory (for you to perform it every year) and you would not be able to do it. Then he said: Leave me with what I have left to you, for those who were before you were destroyed because of excessive questioning, and their opposition to their apostles. So when I command you to do anything, do it as much as it lies in your power and when I forbid you to do anything, then abandon it.6

The above narration can be considered support in favor of silence over the issue of masturbation.The Quran and the Sunnah do not explicitly prohibit it, and they do not explicitly allow it, leaving it in a gray area, therefore Muslims should neither condemn masturbation, nor should they promote it.

To a pious person who is eager to please God, the meaning of these things is as follows:

  1. It is not important enough to be explicitly forbidden or allowed by God and His Prophet .
  2. Every Muslim’s aim should be to avoid it if they can, since true love and fear of God means that a person should avoid everything that has even the slightest possibility of displeasing Him.
  3. If someone is overwhelmed by desire into doing it, or cannot control their impulses so that they habitually do it, they should not obsess about, they should repent and go on with their lives, knowing that what they have done is a small lapse in manners, rather than a crime.

The Issue of Corporealization

Humans have a built-in revulsion toward masturbation due to the fact that it is a corporealizing act; it places focus on the human body in its physicality; it reduces a human to a mere animal, making a human’s individuality irrelevant during the act. Masturbation has little to do with sexual intimacy between two humans who love one another and who continue to see each other as individuals (rather than mere bodies) throughout the sexual act. Masturbation is obscene, it can never be made respectable or acceptable in society. For more on obscenity please see this answer on the issue pornography and erotica. Those interested in this topic can read the important book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation by the British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton.

It would be quite wrong to assume that Islamically ruling that masturbation is not prohibited would lead to an epidemic of masturbation throughout the Islamic world. It would probably not make the slightest difference in that regard (because humans are genetically inclined to feel disgust at masturbation and other corporealizing sexual acts); it would only reduce the feelings of guilt of those who already do it.

Masturbation, teenagers and scholarly humility

Teenagers, especially teenage boys, have heightened sexual desire while also having poor impulse control, since the brain’s prefrontal cortex does not finish developing until after the age of 25. These two factors (increased sexual desire, low ability to control urges) can make it very difficult for them to avoid masturbation. Making teenagers feel bad about masturbation is a short-sighted and destructive thing. It only serves to decrease these teenagers’ religious self-esteem, making them feel as if they will never be good Muslims, since they are supposedly committing a great sin and cannot stop themselves.

The result is that these teenagers start to think of Islam as an outdated and cruel religion that is asking them to do the impossible.

The balanced approach is to tell teenagers that it is best if they avoid it since it is in a gray area, while also telling them that it is not clearly forbidden, therefore if they cannot help themselves and end up doing it, they should not obsess about it, but repent and go on with their lives.

Rather than making baseless statements about masturbation, saying it is allowed or saying it is forbidden, we must acknowledge the vagueness of the Islamic texts on this issue, while also respecting the wisdom of the scholars and human nature in their dislike for it.

Conclusion

Different stages of growth and different life circumstances affect a person’s desire for masturbation. Depression, loneliness and a lack of social interaction, for example, makes it more likely that a person will want to masturbate, and not just among humans. I have seen many articles mention that monkeys in captivity masturbate, but those who live in the wild do not.

Most of our scholars consider masturbation an undignified act that a self-respecting person would not do. While they are right about this when it comes to themselves, they should have empathy for younger people living in very different circumstances and subject to far stronger sexual desires and a lower ability to control their impulses due to the fact that their brain development is not complete. Instead of asking the impossible of young people, of having perfect control over their desires like the scholars themselves, they should treat them with kindness and forgiveness, telling them that there is a consensus among Muslims that masturbation is not a dignified thing to do, but that Islam does not clearly forbid it, and that as people age, it becomes easier to avoid it.

The niqab is neither obligatory nor sunna

In answer to questions about whether the niqab is obligatory for Muslim women:

The respected Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi has done a detailed study of the evidence regarding the niqab, published as al-Niqāb Bayna Farḍīyatih wa Bidʿīyatih1, and his conclusion is that the niqab is neither a duty, nor is it a bidʿa (false innovation) to be condemned, it is rather a tool, an item of clothing, that a woman chooses to wear if and when she wants. If a woman sees that it is beneficial for her to wear it in her particular time and place, then she can do it. And if other women elsewhere decide not to wear it, like the majority of Muslim women have decided, then that’s their choice. There is nothing wrong with a woman veiling her face at a certain occasion, the way Victorian women used to, if she decides that she is more comfortable that way and expects benefits from it.

Dr. Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt from 2003 to 2013, has the same opinion.2 Egypt’s present Grand Mufti Dr. Shawki Allam says the same.3 This is also the opinion of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University.4 He says the the niqab is not a sunna and that there is no special virtue in wearing it.

The Syrian scholar Dr. ʿAli al-Shaʿʿāl says it is not obligatory.5

Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, also has the opinion that the niqab is not obligatory.6

The above are just some examples of the opinions of mainstream Islamic scholars. They represent the opinions of the majority of Muslims. There is also no strong evidence that the niqab is a sunna either, something that Muslim women should supposedly hope to one day wear. Neither the Quran nor any hadith recommend that women should wear it. The niqab, like sandals and water containers made of goat skin, is something that was present in medieval Arabia, it was part of their culture and had a useful function at the time, which was to help women avoid the attention of uncouth men who would make them uncomfortable through ogling. As someone who has traveled a bit, I have met such men in some Middle Eastern countries. If even a slightly attractive woman comes into their field of view, they will stare at her, and stare, and stare, as if watching a TV program. That objectifying gaze is extremely uncomfortable and demeaning for a woman, so if she lives in a society where she is unlucky enough to face such men often, then it would be beneficial for her to have a niqab handy.

But in a civilized, middle class society where the men do not act like that, there is little point to the niqab. Whether one should wear niqab or not should be judged according to its potential benefits and harms and one’s own present time and culture. Just because we have reports of the people of that time doing some thing does not automatically mean it is recommended for us to do it. Thinking the niqab is recommended just because some women in medieval Arabia wore it is probably similar to thinking that hanging water containers made of goatskin in the living room, as the Prophet did, is somehow virtuous. A sunna, or virtuous act taught by the Prophet , can only be established when we have clear and multiply-verified evidence that the Prophet recommended that act. But we have no such evidence. As al-Qaradawi mentions, we have numerous authentic hadiths in which Muslim women are mentioned as showing their faces in public, and we have no convincing evidence that that Prophet would have liked them to hide their faces, even as a voluntary act of piety.

A woman who wishes to hide her face as a personal act of piety can certainly be rewarded for it, but it would be wrong if she said it is a sunna. Not every good deed is a sunna. For example if you choose to donate 5% of your income to charity, we have no evidence that the Prophet did the same or recommend that we do this, but you can do it with a good intention and get rewarded for it.

Those who say the niqab is obligatory are often converts or people who know little about Islam and who are now trying to be good Muslims. They sometimes come under the influence of Saudi-funded websites like IslamQA.info and due to their lack of knowledge end up thinking that these websites represent some true or authentic version of Islam. And due to the way that these websites teach their followers to think of themselves as the only true Muslims, they end up looking down on everyone else and try to force their opinions on them. Usually after a few years of crusading against mainstream Muslims they either abandon Islam (since they can no longer live with themselves) or they become moderate as their knowledge increases.

For more about Saudi-funded sites see my article about IslamQA.info.

What’s a good modern biography of Prophet Muhammad?

Can you recommend a good bibliography of the prophet Muhammad pbuh. I've read one so far but I didn't like it. The style of the author was too heavy.

I just read Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet and it is extremely good. I think it should be required reading for every Muslim. It focuses on the personality and spiritual teachings of the Prophet, , rather than focusing on unnecessary technical details.

Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time is also good.

(I assumed you meant biography)

What to recite next after finishing salah

After finishing salah what should be reciting next? and are you meant to do dhikr after each fard prayer?

You can do various forms of dhikr or dua. The most common dhikr, which is done after every prayer, is to say subhanAllah 33 times, alhamdulillah 33 times, and allahu akbar 33 times, mentioned in Sahih Bukhari. You can also shorten these to ten each, aslo mentioned in Sahih Bukhari.

You can also recite any other dhikr words you know if you choose.

After that, you can perform dua, or stand up to pray the voluntary salah, if there is a voluntary salah associated with the obligatory one.

Can a person perform the ritual washing of a dead spouse’s body?

Regarding the ruling of washing a dead body; can a man or woman wash the body of their spouse? In my East Asian culture the scholars say that the nikah is ended when one of the spouse dies, and therefore it's haraam to wash their body. I tried on islamqa, but their not giving a definite answer.

The Saudi scholar Ibn Baaz says there is nothing wrong with washing a spouse’s body. He mentions that Asmaa’ bin Umais (the wife of Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him and her) washed Abu Bakr’s body when he died, and that Fatima (daughter of the Prophet, and his family) washed Ali’s body.

Dealing with parents who disrespect and fight each other

I would like to ask about my family problem. My parents have been fighting for years. My father no longer talks to my mother although he tried to make amends once. My mother constantly talk bad about my father to me and my siblings. She is always full of hatred and anger towards my father. I'm afraid with time I'll begin to hate my father as well. What is the view in Islam about parents talking bad about their partner to their kids? Where should I stand in this? Thank you.

What your parents are doing is against Islamic teachings. What you should do is stay neutral and respectful toward both of them. If one parent does something unjust toward the other parent or toward one of the children, if you can help prevent it without causing greater harm, then you should try, without belittling or offending either parent.

In your situation, one thing you can do is encourage your siblings to think the best of your father so that they are not unjustly biased against him by your mother’s words. Since your father is not speaking to her and allowing the situation to continue as it is, it appears that both parents are responsible for the bad situation, therefore it is best to not take sides but try to be fair toward both.

If there was anything you could to improve their relationship, then that would be a good thing to do, although it is unlikely. Anything you try could do greater harm than good, since they are older than you and know much more about each other than you do.

Please also see my answer On Islamic Manners Toward Parents.

On Islamic Manners Toward Parents

What if there is something your parents want you to do and it doesn’t please you despite of dropping clear signs they refuse and claim that they know what’s best for you. Are you supposed to take a stand or leave it on Allah?

As Muslims, our default mode of interaction with our parents should be as verse 17:24 commands:

And lower to them the wing of humility, out of mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, as they raised me when I was a child.”

Every truly admirable people I have met have had such an attitude toward their parents. They “humor” their parents, treating them as if they are intelligent, admirable, likable and worthy regardless of how they really feel about them. This is a return of the favor that our parents bestowed upon us when we grew up (whatever their faults) in their treating us as if we were worthy and smart even when we were being foolish and immature. A child might draw a really ugly drawing but the parent celebrates it as if it is beautiful, in this way making the child feel appreciated. Islam tells us to treat our parents the way good parents treat their children, never insulting them and trying to make them feel appreciated and wanted. Even if the parents were abusive, this does not mean that we have to continue the same cycle of abuse toward them, we can be “the bigger person” and treat them like they good parents they never were. This is where true virtue shines. There is nothing admirable about a son who is abusive toward his mother because she was abusive toward him in his childhood. What is admirable and moves our hearts is when a son or daughter is kind, loving and dutiful toward parents who were not this way toward them.

If you love a child, even if the child asks for something somewhat ridiculous, you may still do it for them out of love. The Quran is asking the child to return this favor to their parents. Even if the parents say something or demand something that is somewhat unreasonable, you should do your best to respond positively, instead of belittling them and telling them they are unwise and foolish.

This does not mean that one should act like a slave to them. You can discuss things with them and debate with them if there is something to be gained by this. But wherever possible, you should let them have the last word, lowering to them the wing of humility, as the Quran says, out of love and mercy toward them.

I always do my best to avoid debates with my father, even if we are talking about something that I know far more about than he does and he says something wrong. If he tells me to do something and I have good reasons for not doing it, I will still try my best to do it and to agree with his and my mother’s other demands unless I really cannot do it.

So if your intelligence tells you that they are being unwise and even foolish about something, your love and mercy should take precedence, you should treat them as respected and honored parents at all times. If they burden you with something, never forget that you too were a burden on them for years and made many unreasonable demands of them.

When dealing with your parents, love and mercy must always take priority over logic, unless it is something extremely serious.

What to do if you cannot find interesting and like-minded Muslims to befriend

I have experienced bad things in Muslim communities for so many years that it led me to giving up religion and I went astray. After going through many hardships in life alhamdulillah I came back to the Deen to take shelter. However I'm afraid of mixing with Muslims again. They are shallow at their thinking, even non Muslims understand me better and try to help. I'm tired of being judged yet I want to belong to a community or at least have Muslim friends so I'm not alone. How can I find balance?

Your experience of not finding mixing with other Muslims uplifting, although disheartening, is common. The Medieval scholar Ibn al-Jawzi mentions the same thing, and one of the primary pieces of advice he offers in his book of advice Sayd al-Khatir is that one shouldn’t mix too much with others, because most people are not very spiritual and will harm rather than benefit your faith.

When it comes to most Muslims, Islam is just a small add-on on top of their personalities and characters, so that if their personalities and characters are not compatible with yours, Islam will do little to change things. The exceptions are those who have taken Islamic spirituality to heart and try to follow Quranic manners in everything, but such people are rare, and you will be lucky to meet one among a hundred Muslims you meet.

There are different sections of society, each section having its own interests, character and manners. What Islam means for one section can be very different to what it means for another, therefore if you try to engage the wrong section, you will may not get anything satisfactory out of it.

I love reading, but the majority of people, including the majority of Muslims, do not. The people I like to befriend are those who enjoy reading and learning, and such people are few. This means that most people I meet are not going to be the type I can enjoy spending time with, even if they are good people and I like them.

Your experience might be the same. This is also the experience of many genetically European converts to Islam, who want to find fellow Muslims who are interested in intellectual topics, who care about the long-term good of the community and want to plan things and solve problems, but who discover that most people in the community do not care very much about these things. Perhaps this is what you meant when you said you find most Muslims shallow.

The type of people you like might be rare and perhaps not present in your local community. The internet can be a great help in overcoming this issue. You can find like-minded Muslims from around the world and follow them and perhaps befriend them. The people I keep in contact with over the internet are far higher in quality as friends compared to anyone I know at my local community.

Feeling lonely is a common experience if you are different from the people around you. You must first accept this reality, knowing that this is how things will always be unless God grants you the deep friendship of someone. In the end, it is only God who can cure our loneliness. He can arrange things for us, plan for us and facilitate things for us so that we are no longer lonely, if He wishes, if the time is right and if we deserve it. For this reason this is a thing that must be sought through God more than through any other means.

Islam’s theory of free will versus physical determinism: Why humans are responsible for their actions even though God operates the universe

Emission Nebula

In your essay "God, Evolution and Abiogenesis," you said an atom has no power to move on its own. It is God who has to move every single thing that moves in this world. Given that, does that mean we don't have free will? On the atomic level, it is due to the chemical reactions and the firing of neurons in our brains that we think and make decisions. So, since God is responsible for everything that's in motion (including atoms), then isn't God to blame for all my immoral actions?

Your soul is “plugged into” this universe without being part of it. When you desire to lift up your hand, the desire is yours, therefore you are responsible for this action, but it is God who actually has to move the atoms (and everything else) for your hand to actually move.

When you play a video game, you can issue a command for your game character to lift its hand. You personally have no power to lift the character’s hand, it is the video game engine that actually has to carry your command out, and if the video game engine malfunctions, no matter how many times you issue the command for your character to do something, it may not do it.

When your soul, which is independent from this universe, issues a command, it is fully responsible for this command. But this command is nothing but a feeble wish, it has zero power to change the universe. It is God who has to communicate the soul’s commands to your body, and it is God who has to carry the command out by moving the universe, since nothing in this universe has the power or ability to move or change by itself.

So your soul is free, it is not part of the functioning of this universe. This universe can be thought of as a simulation that is entirely upheld and operated by God. Your soul has no power except to wish for things, and God can transfer these wishes to the body that is temporarily under a human’s control inside our universe. When a person dies, the soul is simply “unplugged” from the universe, and when the person is resurrected, the soul is plugged back into a new body.

Since He wants us to have the choice of disbelieving in Him, He always reliably operates this universe for us, making us think that we have control over our brains and bodies, and making us think that this universe would function by itself even if there was no God. This is a necessary part of the design of the universe, to make faith in God a choice.

Imagine yourself as sitting in a room outside of this universe, holding a remote control that enables you to send commands to your brain and body which are inside the universe. You are responsible for the commands you issue, but you do not have any power or authority to cause a change within the universe. God (or some mechanism laid down by Him) changes the universe so that the command is carried out. He does this so reliably for us that we are tricked into thinking that we have power over this universe.

In reality, the view of the universe we arrive at from the Quran is that it is a simulation-like thing upon which humans have zero power. The human soul is temporarily given the illusion of control over a body, and as the soul issues commands, God moves the body in response, as part of everything else He does in operating this universe.

Saying the soul is independent of this universe does not mean that it is not affected by it. By being plugged into this universe, it experiences it and responds to it. When a human is presented with a temptation, the physical body (and I include the brain in this), which belongs to this universe, responds to it and desires it. The soul, however, maintains final judgment on whether the human succumbs to the temptation or not. The stronger the temptation is, the less room there is for the soul to exert control over the physical body, and the weaker the temptation, the more control the soul has over the body. For this reason we are not always, perhaps never, entirely responsible for the bad deeds we do, the environment affects us and pushes us toward some things. The mistake is in thinking that the environment completely controls us, which is what some atheists say. The Quran says that while the environment affects us, our soul maintains its independence, being able to go against the environment if it wants.

God could prevent all evil from happening, since all that He has to do is stop carrying out an evil person’s intentions, or cause slight changes so that a terrible accident does not happen. I explain why He does not prevent evil things from taking place in my essay Why God Allows Evil to Exist, and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Humans would have had no responsibility for their actions if they were merely brains and bodies, similar to other animals. If things were so, they would be parts of this universe, and everything they do would be a consequence of the motion of particles and forces within the universe, similar to the actions of bacteria in a pond. But when a soul is plugged into the body, the soul “rides” the body, taking charge of it, directing it, and being responsible for it.

At times, the physical body is out of control, such as when under the influence of a drug, or due to mental illness, or due to witnessing some horrible crime. When this happens, when the soul loses control over the brain and body, it is no longer responsible for what the brain and body do until it regains control.

Our responsibility for a sinful act increases as the involvement of the soul increases. If there is no terrible temptation making us partially lose control over the human body that we control, if our sin is done in cold blood while having full control over the earthly body, then this is a far greater sin than a sin done out of overwhelming desire.

This concept also applies to good deeds. A person who forces their unwilling earthly body to do a good deed is going to deserve higher rewards than a person who only does good deeds that make them feel good. It is for this reason that Umar ibn Abdul Aziz says:

The best good deeds are those that one has to force the ego to perform.

When your ego wants to do evil and your soul overcomes it and prevents it from doing it, or your ego dislikes to do a good deed but your soul overcomes it and forces it to do it, in both of these cases you deserve reward, you used your free will to go against the environment, against the ego your soul is plugged into.

The ego is the earthly body’s sense of self. Even if humans had no free will, if they were merely animals, they would still have an ego. This ego makes them seek what they desire and avoid what they do not desire. The soul is an add-on over the ego, able to override it or go along with it. The ego is arrogant, loves pleasures and dislikes work. The soul can submit to it and do as the ego pleases. It can also receive guidance, submit to God and go against the ego when the ego desires something harmful.

You will meet some humans who mostly live inside their egos. The soul has nearly fully relinquished all control, letting the ego make nearly all of their decisions for them. These people are greedy, power-hungry and love pleasures, they are kind and loving toward their own families (since it is an animal instinct to be this way toward one’s own family), but have no empathy or understanding for others. If their child unjustly beats up someone else’s child, they will continue to defend their own child without caring about right or wrong, since they judge things based on the ego, and the ego wants what is good for the human animal’s interests and does not care about justice.

An easy way to find out if someone lives in their ego is to ask yourself, “Will this person help me if helping me required them to do something that gave them some inconvenience and discomfort?” People who live in their egos will generally only help others if helping others is easy and costs them nothing. If there is any cost involved, they immediately ignore the person who is asking for help, treating them as an annoyance to be gotten rid of. But if helping others will bring them fame and praise, they will do it.

The concepts mentioned in this answer are not meant to be used in scientific discussions with atheists, they help explain the Quranic view on these matters for people who have already accepted the truth of the Quran. The concepts in this essay are also useful in discussions with atheists like Sam Harris who falsely claim that the theory of physical determinism proves free will wrong. If the universe was physically determinate, there would be no free will. But there is no proof for this, as I will explain. What they say is similar to saying “If God did not exist, then there would be no God.” In reality, we can have a perfectly scientific universe that appears physically determinate, while also having free will that operates in parallel to it, and which to a scientist appears either as randomness or as a chaotic and emergent behavior

There is no proof that free will exists, the same way there is no proof that God exists. All that we have is soft evidence (rather than hard evidence) that the Quran is true, and once we have accepted the Quran as true, we accept that both God and free will exist.

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